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November Books 10) Emma

10) Emma, by Jane Austen

I had read Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion previously, and frankly liked them more. Emma Woodhouse is a manipulative snob, and while the author clearly disapproves of her manipulations and occasional rudeness, she entirely endorses the snobbery. The unfortunate Harriet, whose emotional life is Emma's plaything, turns out to be the daughter of (shudder) a tradesman, so it's all right for her to marry the farmer who loves her after all. All the other various single men and women characters get paired off by the end of the book. There are some vivid and even funny moments of characterisation, but I found the setting and mindset rather unappealing.


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 11th, 2008 03:04 pm (UTC)
It's the only Jane Austen novel I didn't like and won't reread. Even if it did strongly limit my choice of Freshman English classes.
Nov. 11th, 2008 05:46 pm (UTC)
I know several people who consider "Emma" to be Austen's best (including, probably, J.K. Rowling, who apparently used Austen's technique of narrative misdirection in the book to guide her own writing). I agree with you, though. Emma is rather horrible, and I had a hard time enjoying the book. I found myself not wanting her to end up happy (Knightley is too good for her, really, and it was difficult for me to believe that he would want to be with her). Of course, there is always a lot of culture shock when reading Austen - she did live in a different world. For some reason this book was more challenging for me in that respect than any of her others.
Nov. 11th, 2008 08:54 pm (UTC)
I have to admit a preference for both P&P and Persuasion. While the book Emma was alright the character of Emma didn't appeal to me and therefore the book remains in the finished pile and not the to be revisited pile.
Nov. 11th, 2008 09:00 pm (UTC)
I pathologically hated this book at A-level, and have refused to read any other Austen because of it. As you say, Emma Woodhouse is a manipulative snob and the book is quite detestable.
Nov. 11th, 2008 11:39 pm (UTC)
I hated this book so much for the same reasons. But I hated "Madame Bovary" an awful lot too - occurs to me that the only female protagonists I've really wanted to give a good slapping are both called Emma. How weird.
Nov. 12th, 2008 05:01 pm (UTC)
OMG yes. Emma Bovary is even worse than Austen's Emma. *And* I had to read it in French for class. I was rarely so underwhelmed by a book I had to read -- as in, "Why is this considered such a masterpiece?"
Nov. 12th, 2008 09:45 pm (UTC)
It wasn't that, with me. I don't think I'd have hated either Emma if the writing hadn't been so damn good; both were just pretty ruthless portraits of women I really had no time at all for! If you haven't been completely put off by Flaubert, "Salammbô" is seriously weird.
Nov. 12th, 2008 05:00 pm (UTC)
I agree with you. I love the other Austens, but I hate Emma-the-character and this makes the book rather unpleasant. Probably because the author does endorse some of her unpleasant traits: I hadn't articulated it this way, but I think you're right.
Nov. 22nd, 2008 11:12 pm (UTC)
It's a tightrope walk of a book—the book challenges you to symphathise with Emma ("a heroine whom no one but myself will like" as Austen describes her) while observing with clear eyes her many faults. Readers who fall off the tightrope one way dislike her so much they cannot rejoice in her moral improvement and good fortune; readers who fall off to the other like her so much they cannot appreciate the dramatic tension that arises from the question of whether Emma will deserve the happy ending.
Oct. 31st, 2011 08:37 pm (UTC)
I like the Emma Woodhouse character a lot, because she is imperfect. I don't view her as the most imperfect heroine created by Austen. But she is the only one whose imperfections are made very obvious by the author. And yet - despite her flaws - I find Emma to be rather likeable. I can't help it. And watching her character develop over the course turned out to be very satisfying to me.
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )

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